Quick pickles land on the easy end of the scale when it comes to preserving and canning food.

By Vanessa Greaves
Updated July 22, 2020
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Quick pickling doesn't use boiling water baths or fancy equipment — just a vinegar brine, fresh produce, and a sterilized glass jar or two — and the jars are often stored in the refrigerator instead of on the pantry shelf. Watch the video up top and read on to learn how to make quick pickles.

What Are Quick Pickles?

Quick pickling preserves food by immersing it in a flavored vinegar brine that is usually comprised of vinegar, salt, spices, and sometimes water and/or sugar. The vinegar brine acts to suppress microbes that cause food to rot, as well as infuse the pickled food with tart and tangy flavor. With quick pickling, it may take only a few hours or up to a couple of days of soaking in the brine for the food to be ready to eat. Most quick pickles are made with vegetables or fruits, but you can quick pickle eggs, too.

Because they're not water-bath processed and heat-sealed, quick pickles are not meant for long-term storage at room temperature, and many kinds of quick pickles are eaten right away or stored in the fridge. Refrigerator pickles are an example of quick pickles that are stored in the fridge. Most quick pickle recipes are made in relatively small batches for this very reason.

Quick Tips for Quick Pickles

three glass jars full of pickled squash, carrots, and cucumbers
Credit: Meredith
  • Make sure your work space is clean and sanitized to prevent accidental contamination.
  • Clean jars and lids by running them through the dishwasher or washing them in hot, soapy water. Rinse them well and let dry.
  • Your pickles will be only as good as the produce you use. Choose fresh, unbruised produce, and wash it well before pickling.
  • In order to properly pickle foods, you must use vinegars with the right amount of acidity. Your recipe will specify which vinegar to use.

How to Quick Pickle Just About Anything

Before you get started, it's important to choose a trusted pickle recipe and follow the directions carefully. Once you get the basics down, you can customize your pickles with different kinds of vinegars and spices to change up the flavors.

  1. Prep your jars and lids.
  2. Clean and prep the produce. Cut into shapes and sizes to fit the jars, with room for the brine to cover the produce completely.
  3. Some recipes have you add the pickling spices to the jars and some have you add them to the vinegar brine. For best results, follow the recipe you're using.
  4. Fill the jars with the produce, unless your recipe instructs you to cook the produce in the brine.
  5. Prepare the vinegar brine following recipe directions.
  6. Some brines are added to the jars while they're hot, and some brines are cooled before using. Again, follow specific recipe directions. Fill the jars with the brine, covering the produce completely and leaving half an inch of "headspace" at the top. Tap the jars to remove air bubbles, and add more brine if needed.
  7. Screw on the lid and, if the brine is hot, let the pickles come to room temperature. Affix a label with the date and store in the refrigerator.

At this point, I checked with a pickle-making expert to confirm that you can turn traditional pickled produce recipes into quick pickles simply by eliminating the hot water bath proccessing that preserves canning recipes for up to a year. In fact that's what she often does when she wants to make a small batch to be eaten right away.

How Long Can You Store Quick Pickles?

Most quick pickle recipes will tell you how long you can store unopened jars in the fridge, but as a general rule of thumb, quick pickles are meant to be consumed from within a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Once you open a jar of quick pickles, you should eat them up within a week or two.

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